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Then and Now: How Smart Irrigation Continues to Evolve with Technology and the Times

It wasn’t long ago that a landscape contractor or homeowner would have to program an irrigation clock with nothing more than an educated guess. Today, irrigation controllers can be programmed with the assistance of weather-based data, soil moisture sensors, mobile phone apps and other smart technology.

Over the years, landscape management and maintenance has evolved. As we wrap up this year’s Irrigation Association’s Smart Irrigation Month, here’s a look at how smart irrigation has changed over the years and where it could be heading.

The products

From controllers to rotators and beyond, irrigation products and technology are far more advanced than earlier models.

Take the controller. Once a simple clock that could only be programmed to start and stop sprinkler run times, controllers can now take real-time weather and plant data into account to provide more accurate and sustainable water usage.

Years ago, when the Smart Irrigation Month first started, there were only one or two smart controllers, said Warren Gorowitz, Vice President of Sustainability for Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply.

“The internet and Wi-Fi weren't even thought of when it came to managing an irrigation controller. As technology changed, so did the concept of what a smart irrigation controller is. A smart irrigation controller today may not only adjust its watering based on local weather conditions or soil moisture content, but in addition, it provides a simplified interface that allows you to access your irrigation controller schedule, and manual operation from your mobile phone and online,” Gorowitz said.

But the technology hasn’t been limited to controllers, according to Gorowitz, “spray heads were the prevalent irrigation choice for turf and shrub areas. Today high efficiency nozzles and low-volume drip irrigation have become the preferred product in many markets.”

The culture

While technology has led the way for smart irrigation, the practice and culture has followed closely. With the need for more environmentally friendly landscapes and buildings growing, demand for these types of environments has become one of the top requests from homeowners and businesses, according to a 2017 American Society of Landscape Architects survey.

“With the advent of LEED , the Sustainable Sites Initiative and the Green Globes Certification, sustainability is at the forefront of outdoor green spaces, from parks to residential back yards and from golf courses to baseball fields,” Gorowitz said.

In order for green industry businesses of today to become green industry businesses of tomorrow, incorporating sustainable practices and products into the business offerings can help set them apart from competition. Check out these tips for building green practices into your business.

The future

Smart irrigation and sustainable landscapes are the future, but that doesn’t mean green industry pros need to compete with the technology. In fact, Gorowitz says the opposite is true.

“Despite the increased applications of artificial intelligence, a well-trained irrigation professional will still be in high demand in the future,” he said. “The price point on the smart irrigation technology will continue to decline, as it becomes the everyday irrigation choice. Ultimately the traditional irrigation products will be used less and less. The ability to monitor and react to flow issues will be standard and included with every controller purchased (flow sensor included). It's possible that non-smart irrigation products won’t be used in the future due to increasing codes and standards.

As for other technology that could have an impact on the green industry, Gorowitz suggests you look to the sky.

“Drones will be a common irrigation tool used by irrigation maintenance contractors to quickly survey an entire irrigation system on a property and locate irrigation efficiency and maintenance issues,” Gorowitz said.

How have you incorporated smart irrigation technology into your business? Let us know how in the comments below. For more tips and information on smart irrigation technology and practices, visit Ewing’s blog or stop by one of our locations and talk to a Ewing service professional.

TAGS: Smart Irrigation, Future of the Green Industry, Irrigation, Smart Irrigation Month